A cross-disciplinary team of scientists, led by University of Massachusetts Amherst environmental epigeneticist and former Family Research Scholar Richard Pilsner, will use a three-year, $1.6 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to expand research into the impact of phthalate exposure on male fertility. Phthalates are ubiquitous endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in plastics and personal care products, such as deodorant and shaving cream. Virtually all people in the U.S. have some level of phthalate exposure. “This is one half of the equation that has been largely overlooked,” says Pilsner, associate professor of environmental health in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences.
The new grant amplifies the Pilsner Lab’s ongoing research, in both human and mice models, into the influence of phthalate exposure on sperm epigenetics and embryo development, which is supported by two other NIEHS grantstotaling $5 million. The epigenome represents the chemical changes to DNA and histone proteins that affect gene expression and can be passed on to offspring but don’t change the DNA sequence.
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